28 November 2012 |

IDPs rebuilding lives amid a delicate peace

Côte d’Ivoire witnessed the world’s largest new internal displacement event of 2011 after contested presidential election results in 2010 sparked a violent conflict for political control. Serious rights abuses by supporters of both sides and armed clashes between them resulted in the internal displacement of up to a million people. Two years later, most of these internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned home to rebuild their lives. However, tens of thousands have still not found durable solutions to their displacement.

With no comprehensive monitoring process in place, it is not possible to determine how many of those displaced by the post-electoral violence, nor those displaced by earlier conflict, have achieved durable solutions. Insecurity and humanitarian needs are particularly pronounced in western and southwestern regions. Access to land remains a major impediment for returning IDPs there, and recurrent land disputes perpetuate displacement and fuel ethnic tensions. Other key challenges for IDPs seeking to rebuild their normal lives include food insecurity, limited access to shelter, education, and health services and sexual- and gender-based violence.

Background

Over ten years of political unrest, escalating inter-ethnic tensions and violence have marred Côte d’Ivoire’s former reputation for stability and thrown the country into a state of enduring crises. Two waves of armed conflict and violence – one set off in 2002 and the other following presidential elections in 2010 – both led to massive population upheaval, displacing around a million people on each occasion.

Land as a driver of conflict

Western Côte d’Ivoire, the country’s most fertile region, has profitable agro-industrial export-focused activities including production of cocoa, timber and coffee. In an attempt to increase exports, from the 1960s the national authorities started encouraging migration from other regions of Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries. Land was allocated by customary leaders to those who in Ivorian parlance are referred to as allochtones (people from other regions of the country) or allogènes (foreigners). The economic and political crises of the late 1980s led an increasing number of autochtones (Ivorians living on their ancestral land) to seek to reclaim their land and to contest the rights acquired by incomers.

Many observers regard the numerous recurrent land disputes in the west as drivers of displacement and conflict, both before and during the 2002-2007 conflict and during the recent post-electoral crisis. These events have further exacerbated tensions between autochtones, allochtones and allogènes. Land left behind by IDPs has often been occupied, rented or fraudulently sold by others in their absence. Additional displacement and conflicts have arisen as a result of IDPs settling in protected forest areas where human settlements are forbidden.

Ten years of internal strife

In the last decade, large numbers of people began fleeing their homes and land as a result of the armed conflict that broke out in 2002 following years of festering inter-community tensions and the perception by northerners of being marginalised by the government in the south. Ethnic discrimination became entrenched in the body politic by the late 1990s with the introduction of the concept of “Ivoirité” which established a distinction between “native” Ivorians and those who had been naturalised or who had only one Ivorian parent.

In September 2002, after a failed coup by disaffected soldiers, a full-scale rebellion broke out. Northern rebels of the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Côte d’Ivoire (MPCI) gained control of much of the centre and the north of the country, while government forces held the south. Thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed on both sides and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, many seeking refuge in Abidjan, the capital and largest city.

Several peace agreements and ceasefire deals broke down in 2003 and 2004. Finally, in March 2007, the Ouagadougou Agreement was reached under the mediation of the President of Burkina Faso. This resulted in the formal cessation of hostilities and the formation of a national unity government intended to steer the country toward elections to end the crisis.

Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential elections were put off for several years. Initially scheduled for October 2005 at the end of President Laurent Gbagbo’s term of office, they finally took place in late 2010. Alassane Ouattara was recognised as the winner after the second round on 28 November, winning 54.1 percent of votes according to the independent electoral commission. Despite these results and international recognition of Ouattara’s victory by the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the UN Security Council, the European Union and the United States, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo clung to power. The ensuing battle for political control between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters led to violent conflict, triggering the largest new internal displacement crisis in the world in 2011.

Causes and patterns of displacement

During the 2010-11 post-electoral crisis the human rights situation in the country rapidly deteriorated and human rights abuses, including summary executions, rapes, abductions and pillaging, were committed by both camps (UN News Centre, 10 March 2011). Some civilians also perpetrated human rights abuses, taking advantage of the general confusion (FIDH, 2 April 2011). In total, over 3,000 people were killed during the crisis (UNHCR); hundreds were executed in the western town of Duékoué alone in March 2011 (BBC, April 2011; UN News Centre, 24 July 2012).

One million internally displaced at height of crisis

At the peak of the crisis, up to a million people were internally displaced by the violence and related insecurity, including over 700,000 within or from Abidjan and 150,000 in the west of the country (UNHCR, accessed November 2012). There were 35 IDP camps throughout the country, hosting up to 70,000 people. Areas most affected by the conflict and displacement included Abidjan (particularly Abobo and Yopougon neighbourhoods) and the west (particularly the regions of Dix-Huit Montagnes, Moyen-Cavally and Bas-Sassandra). These areas were targeted by both parties to the conflict on the assumption that they hosted their adversaries. Many IDPs did not go very far and managed to find shelter with host families or in camps located relatively close to their home areas. In the west, an unknown number of people went into hiding in forests and stayed there for weeks in precarious conditions.

The post-election standoff officially ceased in April 2011 with the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo. However, violence continued during the following weeks, causing widespread terror in certain localities and further displacement. For example, between 5 and 9 April 2011, over 200 people were killed and at least 1,000 displaced following days of violence perpetrated by several armed groups in five villages in the Bas-Sassandra region. (Amnesty International, 28 July 2011).

In September 2011, five months after the end of the conflict, there were an estimated 247,000 IDPs remaining in Côte d’Ivoire, compared to the estimated 700,000 to one million in March 2011 (OCHA, 30 September 2011).

Most IDPs returned, but many hesitated

The security situation continued to improve throughout 2011, enabling the return of many IDPs; some 84% were thought to have gone back to their homes by July 2012 (OCHA, accessed November 2012).

Many IDPs, traumatised and skeptical of the peace, nonetheless hesitated returning to their places of origin. In October 2011, some 22 percent of interviewed IDPs in Moyen Cavally region declared that they did not wish to return because of the destruction of their homes, insecurity, fear of reprisals, the trauma they had endured in home areas, their desire not to re-encounter painful experiences, land disputes and the lack of food, access to livelihoods and services (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011). In late 2011 and early 2012, many IDPs interviewed on behalf of the Protection Cluster in Abidjan, Bas Sassandra and western regions also indicated that they did not wish to return for reasons ranging from insecurity, trauma experienced and lack of means. In the west, 49 percent of the displaced said they did not wish to return. Many of these IDPs originated from Abidjan and Duékoué, where violence during the crisis was extreme, resulting in severe destruction of life and property.

Another reason commonly invoked to explain IDPs’ desire not to return was the acceptable level of integration into host communities and these communities’ acceptance of the presence of IDPs. This was the case in all three regions assessed by the Protection Cluster (Protection Cluster, 27 December 2011January 201212 January 2012).

In early 2012, most IDP camps had been phased out as people continued returning home or settling elsewhere; all of the remaining camps in and around Abidjan were closed by the end of March. The Catholic mission in the western town of Duékoué – one of the first camps established and which hosted as many as 28,000 IDPs in crowded conditions – closed in July 2012 (OCHA, 17 July 2012). Some of its inhabitants were moved to Nahibly, the country’s last IDP camp, weeks before an attack displaced them all once more and forced the camp’s premature closure (see below).

New displacement continues in 2012

Despite these large waves of return, a pervasive climate of fear and inter-communal mistrust remains, particularly in the west. Here thousands have been newly forced to flee during cross-border attacks by armed groups – allegedly composed of Ivorian and Liberian mercenaries loyal to Gbagbo or disgruntled Ivorian ex-soldiers – who reportedly target civilians from ethnic groups whose members largely support President Ouattara (HRW, 6 June 2012; IRIN, 29 June 2012).

Between the end of the post-electoral crisis and June 2012, at least 64 people were killed and thousands displaced by such attacks (IRIN, 29 June 2012). On 25 April, an estimated 6,320 people were displaced after an armed attack on Sakré in the southwest; these people mostly sought refuge in the town of Taï, 27km away. Another 13,000 people were displaced in mid-June after violent incidents in villages situated between Taï and Nigré along the border with Liberia. As of 19 June, over 7,700 people were displaced in Para, while 2,730 people were living with host families in Taï and others had settled on public land in the town (OCHA, 19 June 2012). Most of these IDPs returned to their places of origin soon after they were displaced.

There are also reports of short-term preventive displacement, wherein people flee violence before it happens for fear of attack. In mid-August, two checkpoints were attacked near Toulépleu in the west, leading to confrontations between the attackers and the FRCI. These isolated events caused the displacement of half of the population of the Toulépleu area to villages along the border with Liberia or to nearby forests. People started returning as soon as the situation calmed down (OCHA, 24 August 2012).

Armed attack on Nahibly IDP camp in July 2012

IDPs themselves were among those forced to flee violence in the west in 2012. On 20 July, a group of nearly a thousand armed men attacked Côte d’Ivoire’s last IDP camp, Nahibly, near Duékoué. At least seven people were killed, dozens wounded and all IDPs in the camp, some 5,000 people, were once again forced to flee to safer locations (NRC, 24 July 2012). Most found temporary refuge with host families, at the Duékoué Catholic mission, at the mayor’s compound or in the surrounding bush (IRIN, 1 August 2012). At the time of writing, most of the IDPs forced out of Nahibly camp had been able to make their way home, albeit unprepared and in precarious conditions. An unknown number had nowhere else to go and were still staying with family or friends.

Perpetrators have not been detained in relation to the Nahibly attack (UN News Centre, 24 July 2012; AFP, 12 October 2012). Six bodies were discovered in a mass grave near Duékoué on 11 October, possibly those of IDPs killed during the attack (Xinhua, 17 October 2012). Further investigations started in November in other locations around Duékoué, where it was feared more victims would be discovered (RFI, 5 November 2012).

Current figures uncertain in absence of countrywide monitoring

As of November 2012, the number of IDPs still displaced in Côte d’Ivoire is thought to be between 40,000 and 80,000 (email correspondence with the Protection Cluster, November 2012). According to the mid-year review of the 2012 UN Consolidated Appeal (CAP), 74 percent of the remaining IDPs in Côte d’Ivoire were living in the west (CAP, 17 July 2012). There are also still hundreds of people in urban areas such as Abidjan and Bouaké who declare themselves as IDPs. Many arrived in these communities prior to the post-electoral crisis and their residence is tenuous, making them vulnerable to eviction.

In the absence of a countrywide monitoring mechanism it is difficult to obtain comprehensive estimates of the number of people still displaced. The vast majority of IDPs stayed with host families, further limiting the thoroughness of IDP assessments. It is thus challenging to rigorously assess the number of people who have achieved durable solutions to their displacement – return, local integration or settlement elsewhere in the country. While most people displaced by the 2002-2007 conflict are thought to have returned, it is unknown how many were still displaced at the onset of the post-electoral crisis.

During the crisis, estimates on IDPs living in camps were provided by the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster while the Protection Cluster and UNHCR continue to provide overall estimates of IDP numbers. In late 2011 and early 2012, the Protection Cluster completed comprehensive IDP profiling exercises in three areas of Côte d’Ivoire hosting the majority of displaced people (Abidjan, Bas Sassandra and the western regions). Since then, there has not been any comprehensive IDP profiling throughout the country.

An additional complication: flooding as a cause of displacement

Abidjan is prone to flooding, which has on several occasions led to displacement. In June 2010, thousands of people living on flood plains around the city were reported to have been evicted as the state sought to implement a contingency plan before the onset of annual rains: government raids led to the often brutal removal of households without adequate compensation (IRIN, 18 June 2010). In June 2011, floods threatened some 28,000 people and close to 10,000 people were displaced or at risk of being displaced (AP, 21 June 2011).

Obstacles to durable solutions

In 2011, IDPs faced a range of serious obstacles returning to their places of origin, integrating locally or settling elsewhere in the country. While most of those displaced during the post-electoral crisis have returned since the marked improvement in security in 2011-12, the durability of their return is tenuous, with many still grappling with challenges relating to their past displacement.

Ongoing inter-communal tensions and armed violence

Côte d’Ivoire remains a heavily armed country; some analysts place the number of former combatants who still retain small arms at 100,000 (IPS, 22 September 2012). Disarmament and reintegration of former fighters are seen by displaced people and returning IDPs as indispensible pre-conditions for return (IRIN, 3 August 2012). Inter-communal tensions remain high, especially in the west. These sometimes escalate into violent clashes leading to displacement and death.

During 2011, inter-communal tensions were triggers for several forms of violence that hindered return or other forms of settlement for IDPs. In the west, Gbagbo supporters were reported to fear reprisal attacks by supporters of President Ouattara. In June 2011, Dozos (a brotherhood of initiated traditional hunters renowned for their supposed mystical powers and seen as supporters of Ouattara) were more present than they had been in the first four months of the year when the crisis had been most acute. People reported that Dozos were based at checkpoints or circulating on motorcycles, bikes or on foot: the mere sight of them terrified locals (Amnesty International, 28 July 2011). Others reported that armed men blocked access to people’s homes and land or intimidated them through extortion or the playing of audio recordings of previous attacks against their ethnic group (IRIN, 13 October 2011).

Rumours and mixed messages also heightened IDPs’ sense of insecurity, leading to further displacement and preventing people from returning. For example, it was reported that pro-Gbagbo militias had told displaced people that no peace was possible and that if they returned, they would be killed. In late 2011, IDPs reported they lacked reliable information from government authorities on the security situation in areas of origin, yet state representatives strongly advised them to return and participate in reconciliation processes (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011).

Sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) under-reported, under-addressed

Sexual- and gender-based violence can lead to women’s complete inability to secure durable solutions to their displacement. Hundreds, or possibly thousands, of women and girls in Côte d’Ivoire have been the victims of grave acts of sexual and gender-based violence since 2002. During and after the most recent post-electoral violence, women were targeted by both sides of the conflict, often on the basis of their ethnicity, and attacked, beaten or raped (Amnesty International, 31 November 2011). Displaced women and girls without personal documentation were also at higher risk of abuses at checkpoints.

Today, sexual violence remains frequent in Abidjan and is rising in the western regions, which witnessed high rates of internal displacement during the post-electoral crisis (SGBV Sub-Cluster, June 2012). In Duékoué, cases of sexual violence reported during the second quarter of 2012 were three times higher than during the first quarter (OCHA, 24 August 2012).

Access to land and livelihoods restricted

Difficulties in accessing land and other sources of livelihoods affect both returning IDPs and people still displaced and restrict their ability to recreate sustainable sources of livelihoods. Both remain highly dependent on aid to restore livelihoods. In October 2011, a joint study revealed 58 percent of returning IDPs and 82 percent of IDPs interviewed had completely lost their sources of income. For many IDPs the decision to return has been driven not so much by improved security but by the lack of access to land, food and income-generating activities in displacement (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011). In December 2011 and January 2012, it was reported that 72.5 percent of IDPs in the west, 68 percent of IDPs in Abidjan and 61.25 percent in Bas-Sassandra had lost their sources of livelihoods during the crisis. Unable to resume livelihoods activities, they live on irregular income and have no other choice but to stay with host families (Protection cluster, 27 December 2011January 201212 January 2012).

A new feature noted following the post-electoral violence has been the existence of armed men, often Dozos, preventing returning IDPs from accessing their land or imposing arbitrary taxes to do so. In a few instances returning IDPs have been nonetheless able to access land, but large return flows have been further complicated as plantations are occupied, mostly by migrant communities (DRC, FAO, NRC, 2012).

Food insecurity and malnutrition

Among IDPs and returning IDPs interviewed in late 2011, 83 and 77 percent respectively named food as their overwhelming priority, saying they did not have enough to eat (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011). Food insecurity in Côte d’Ivoire has been aggravated by restrictions on access to land and the legacy of years of conflict and displacement. A September 2011 assessment estimated that the 2011-2012 harvest would be reduced by 38.5 percent in areas directly affected by the conflict due to displacement, land disputes and lack of agricultural inputs, including labour (DRC, FAO, NRC, 2012). Many seed reserves and granaries were stolen or burnt during the conflict.

In May 2012, UNICEF estimated that in the areas of the country targeted by the CAP around 7,700 children suffered from severe acute malnutrition, 55,000 children suffered from moderate acute malnutrition, 33,600 pregnant and lactating women were malnourished and 64,150 people were living with AIDS (OCHA, 17 July 2012). Food insecurity is particularly high in the displacement-affected west, where people spend most of their available money on food (DRC, FAO, NRC, 2012).

Hindered access to adequate shelter

Inadequate shelter has been another major challenge to the sustainable return of IDPs in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly in the west. During the crisis, many homes were destroyed, damaged or forcibly occupied by others. As IDP camps were closing down many rushed to seek other shelter (AFP, 30 September 2011). Many had seen their houses destroyed or damaged during the fighting and were still afraid of insecurity and reprisal attacks in their areas of origin. Half the displaced people who expressed an intention not to return cited the destruction of their house as the main reason (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011).

According to the Shelter Cluster, 23,000 houses were either destroyed or damaged in the west during the post-election crisis, of which 90 percent were made of mud. As of 1 August 2012, it was reported that in 55 percent of villages people had been able to rebuild mud-brick houses by themselves but 12,000 remained damaged or destroyed. Of these, more than 7,100 houses were owned by households deemed vulnerable (Shelter and NFIs Cluster, 1 August 2012). Ethnic tensions over land also hinder IDPs’ ability to return and rebuild shelter. Allochtone and allogène IDPs can face difficulties in rebuilding houses when the issue of the property of the land is disputed by autochtones or vice versa.

Personal documentation lost or destroyed

In Côte d’Ivoire as elsewhere, identity documents are necessary to access services, benefit from social protection programmes and lead a normal life in general. However, approximately 80 percent of IDPs lost such key civil documents as identity cards, birth certificates, voter cards and land title deeds as a result of panicked flight during the crisis (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011). Destruction and looting of state offices in some areas continue to complicate the process of acquiring replacement documentation (NRC, October 2011; CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011).

A lack of identity documents has been a significant hurdle to obtaining durable solutions to displacement. For example, 40-53 percent of IDPs interviewed in Abidjan, Bas Sassandra and the west did not have a voter card and thus could not participate in elections (Protection Cluster, 27 December 2011January 201212 January 2012). These groups also reported protection risks, including limitations on their freedom of movement, harassment and sexual abuses by armed groups (Protection Cluster, 27 December 2011).

Erratic access to education

Education in Côte d’Ivoire has been interrupted during periods of conflict for the last decade. During the latest crisis, more than 200 schools were damaged countrywide, and many others were looted or occupied by armed forces (OCHA, 17 July 2012). Some IDPs reported that education services were generally more available in areas of displacement than in areas of origin (Protection Cluster, January 2012). In Abidjan, it was the contrary and education was more accessible in areas of origin (Protection Cluster, 27 December 2011).

Because of the damage caused to schools, the resulting lack of space and materials and the displacement of many teachers, the reopening of schools was delayed in many places (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011). In 2012, ongoing insecurity in some areas of the west has slowed the return to schooling, as wary parents are cautious about sending their children, particularly daughters, back to school for fear of exposing them to sexual abuse; an estimated 140,000 children who were enrolled prior to the crisis were still out of school in July (OCHA, 17 July 2012).

During the crisis, many displaced children lost their birth certificates and livrets scolaires (booklets required for school enrolment). Some three to four million children are without documentation of their birth. In the area of Man alone, more than 5,000 children lacked personal documentation as of July 2012. The ability of internally displaced children to attend school and sit exams is further limited by the lack of means to pay such associated costs as exam registration fees (Education Cluster, July 2012).

Ongoing needs for health and psychological care

During the post-electoral crisis, access to health services was severely affected in the displacement-affected west: according to the World Health Organisation at the height of the crisis in April 2011 half of the health centres were dysfunctional and less than 30 percent of health staff remained. Hospitals situated in the towns of Duékoué, Guiglo and Toulépleu were looted and damaged during the crisis. Most health facilities have re-opened but healthcare provision remains poor due to lack of facilities and staff. IDPs or returning IDPs generally have to travel to towns to obtain healthcare. As of early June 2012, only Duékoué’s hospital was fully functional and the only facility able to perform operations in Tonkpi region. Other facilities still lack either staff, medicines or materials (Health Cluster, June 2012).

The majority of IDPs have suffered psychological trauma. Most fled their homes rapidly in a state of fear and lived in precarious conditions. Many were victims of inhumane treatment and/or witnessed atrocities, including against their own family members. Some IDPs had already lived through the conflict that erupted in 2002 and had not recovered from that period of violence. While the crisis is officially over, IDPs and returning IDPs still have to deal with the trauma they have suffered and inter-communal tensions remain, with many nervously recalling previous episodes (MSF, 7 December 2011). The attacks on villages and an IDP camp in 2012 have added another layer of trauma and further delayed return to normalcy. However, psychosocial and psychological assistance remains one of the lesser-addressed humanitarian domains in the country.

Dysfunctional water and electricity services

In October 2011, many returning IDPs reported that electricity was still unavailable in their villages that had been on the grid and that phone and radio networks did not function everywhere, all of which amplified the general atmosphere of fear and insecurity (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011). As of mid-2012, almost all villages where IDPs were returning home still had difficulties in accessing potable water. According to an assessment by the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Cluster in the villages of Toulépleu, Kouibly and Zouan-Hounien in early 2012, between 63 and 78 percent of water pumps were out-of-order. Communities are generally unable to repair them themselves due to the continuing absence of spare parts vendors. Some health centres and schools do not have latrines and most rural villages do not have family latrines. This lack of sanitation facilities increases vulnerability to epidemics (OCHA, 17 July 2012).

Unaccompanied and separated children

During flight or in displacement many children became separated from their families, throwing them into a situation of extreme vulnerability to abuse and violence (OCHA, 5 January 2012). The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has identified close to 840 children separated from their parents during the post-election crisis (ICRC, 18 September 2012). The sub-cluster on child protection has identified 785 unaccompanied and separated children. It is difficult to identify all the children concerned, for they are scattered in many areas and often are living with host families who do not necessarily know about reporting mechanisms. The sub-cluster has noted the small number of agencies working with separated children, their lack of capacity and sufficient funding (OCHA, 23 May 2012).

Responses to internal displacement

With the improvement of security in mid-2011, the government informed IDPs that they could start to return home. Some were strongly encouraged to do so and cash was given to IDPs near Abidjan so that they could rent a home upon their return to the city. In February 2012, the Secrétariat National de la Reconstruction et à la Réinsertion (SNRR) provided fifteen tons of clothing, games and other items to IDPs living in camps in Bingerville near Abidjan (SNRR, 27 February 2012). Elsewhere, particularly in the west, IDPs reportedly felt forgotten and deplored the lack of state presence and action to help them put an end to their situation (IRIN, 26 April 2012).

Few government programmes have targeted IDPs specifically. The Programme Présidentiel d’Urgence (PPU) was promulgated after Ouattara’s inauguration. It enabled the rehabilitation of around 380 water pumps in villages where IDPs were returning home during the first half of 2012 (OCHA, 17 July 2012). The state is providing funds to CARE to rebuild 1,000 houses. The government is not directly supporting any other housing reconstruction interventions.

Following his July 2012 visit to Côte d’Ivoire the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of IDPs commended the government for its work towards reestablishing law and order and ensuring that returns for IDPs were voluntary. He, nonetheless, noted that assistance provided by the state to encourage IDPs to leave camps did not promote durable solutions comprehensively as it did not include post-return livelihoods support (OHCHR, 31 July 2012). Additionally, there are no reports of state assistance to the substantial number of IDPs still living with host families or those who have expressed a preference for local integration.

A Commission pour le Dialogue, la Vérité et la Réconciliation was created in May 2011 but there are doubts concerning its degree of impartiality and effectiveness (ICG, 1 August 2011). In October 2011, many IDPs reported that they had not heard of it or that they did not know how to access it (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011). More recently, the Commission has indicated that it still lacks the funds it needs to fulfill its mandate.

Legal framework and government coordination

Côte d’Ivoire signed the African Union Convention on the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons (Kampala Convention) in November 2009 but had not ratified it as of November 2012. It is, however, a state party to several of the major international treaties for the protection of human rights (see OHCHR).

Elements of a national legal framework upholding the rights of IDPs, including a bill defining mechanisms to compensate war victims (among them IDPs) were drafted several years ago but have not been signed or applied. The Ministère de la Solidarité et des Victimes de Guerre, the former IDP focal point, was closed as part of a government reshuffle in February 2010 (IDMC, 22 February 2010).

The Ministère de l’Emploi, des Affaires sociales et de la Solidarité is in charge of coordinating with humanitarian organisations. In October 2011, it established a Comité national decoordination de l’action humanitaire (CNCAH), bringing together several ministries, NGOs and UN agencies. Within this framework, humanitarian partners have developed a Strategy for Voluntary and Durable Return, which was validated by the government in November 2011. A meeting designed to assess the situation of IDPs was held in January 2012. During the meeting, the Ministre de l’Emploi, des Affaires sociales et de la Solidarité expressed the government’s wish to close IDP camps as soon as possible without causing inconvenience for IDP families (AIP, 20 January 2012). No new focal point on IDPs was designated.

Humanitarian response to the post-electoral crisis

After years of focus on development activities, the cluster approach was reactivated in January 2011 with an emergency humanitarian action plan (EHAP) which also involved Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea and Mali.

Beyond assistance provided to IDPs living in camps, humanitarian response has primarily focused on voluntary return by assisting IDPs with cash, food, reconstruction, road rehabilitation, transportation, mattresses, kitchenware, other household items and agricultural inputs. ECOWAS has donated over 1,300 tons of food to the Ivorian government to help the displaced (Panapress, 24 May 2012).

The 2012 CAP requested $173 million. The mid-year revision in July 2012 reduced the request to $160 million. CAP priorities include the protection of civilians, access to essential basic services, nutritional assistance, restoration of means of subsistence, continuation of voluntary returns and reintegration of IDPs. As of 24 October, only 57 percent of its requirements had been funded. The Protection Cluster had been funded for 38 percent while the Early Recovery Cluster had received no funding at all (FTS, 24 October 2012).

The strategic objectives of the revised CAP provide an overall framework of response to the needs of IDPs, seeking to:

  • improve the living conditions and the protection of the most affected populations, including IDPs, host families, host communities and other vulnerable people by ensuring access to basic services;
  • facilitate voluntary returns in secure areas by identifying and supporting sustainable solutions; and
  • reduce risks and mitigate the impacts of potential new crises.

Humanitarian partners have provided information on the security situation in return areas and organised on-site consultations. However, only 21 percent of interviewed IDPs reported having received information from the humanitarian community with the vast majority relying on their own networks. In 2011, many mentioned the need for reliable information on security and available humanitarian and basic services in order to enable them to make informed choices whether to return (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011).

Addressing the roots of conflict: growing response to land disputes?

One of the root causes of land disputes in Côte d’Ivoire is the uneasy co-existence of customary and statutory laws. In Côte d’Ivoire, rural land remains largely managed under principles of customary law which regard land as an inalienable asset. However, authorities declared in the 1960s that the land would belong to those cultivating it. This situation of legal pluralism created confusion as to the exact terms of the transactions and the rights created. Many buyers asserted that they had acquired property rights, whereas sellers insisted that they had only leased the land and allocated a right of use. The 1998 land law, designed to convert customary rights into property deeds, has hardly been implemented thus far and has therefore not settled the general confusion. Since the law came into force very few title deeds have been allocated (IDMC, October 2009).

The Ivorian government’s growing interest in addressing land issues led to it organising two inter-governmental land seminars in June and October 2012. However, although the resolution of land disputes is considered essential to social cohesion, there has been hardly any official recognition of the relation between land disputes and displacement. 

In an attempt to support development of a national response framework on land disputes, the international community participated in the second inter-governmental land seminar after coordinating its position through the UN-led Forum Foncier, which gathers several UN agencies and NGOs. The Protection Cluster in Côte d’Ivoire also contributed to the land debate by organising training on housing, land and property issues for ministries and préfets. Recommendations arising during training workshops were fed into the second inter-governmental seminar and highlighted the need to adapt the 1998 land law to the specific needs of IDPs.

Meanwhile, the situation of IDPs (and others) living illegally in state-protected forests is perilous: threats of further forcible evictions could lead to new displacement. A humanitarian and development approach – wherein the amount of time spent in the forest and the existence of plantations created by IDPs is taken into account – seems to be favoured by the authorities who attended the inter-governmental land seminars, despite political rhetoric stressing the need to forcibly evict those residing in state forests. The government has set out a plan to progressively evacuate forest-dwellers over a number of years.